Big, messy free sci­ence

The Covington News - - Local News -

poly•mer: (\pä-l -m r\), noun, a chem­i­cal com­pound or mix­ture of com­pounds formed by poly­mer­iza­tion and con­sist­ing es­sen­tially of re­peat­ing struc­tural units (from Mer­riam-Web­ster)

Yes, I com­pletely un­der­stand it now. Don’t you?

I was for­tu­nate through school to take part in ad­vanced level classes, where teach­ers could spend more time do­ing hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties, in­stead of just try­ing to teach from the book.

With in­creas­ing class sizes, mounds of pa­per­work, more test­ing, and less funds, I worry that to­day’s stu­dents are more likely to be taught from a def­i­ni­tion like the one above than from ac­tiv­i­ties like ed­i­ble DNA or mak­ing sauer­kraut in chem­istry class.

Sci­ence ed­u­ca­tor Steve Span­gler takes it even one step fur­ther: BIG sci­ence.

Span­gler may be best known for his Men­tos and diet cola geyser ex­per­i­ment made fa­mous on the web­site YouTube, but it’s not the only sci­ence trick in his bag.

It was only fit­ting that 4-H ask Span­gler to cre­ate the ex­per­i­ment for our very first 4-H Na­tional Youth Sci­ence Day nex­tWed­nes­day.

New­ton County chil­dren and youth will be part of a na­tion­wide hy­dro­gel poly­mer ex­per­i­ment onWed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 8 on the Cov­ing­ton Square.

The event is free, and every­one in the com­mu­nity is in­vited to put on play clothes and drop in through­out the af­ter­noon from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

New­ton 4-H’ers will lead an ex­per­i­ment us­ing a com­mon, everyday hy­dro­gel poly­mer.

Think it’s the fibers in di­a­pers and other ab­sorbent prod­ucts that hold in all that liq­uid?

Think again, and join 4-H as we dis­cover how th­ese same su­per-ab­sorbent poly­mers can also be used to keep trees and plants alive with up to 80% less wa­ter.

In true Steve Span­gler style, we could not turn youth into sci­en­tists without some­thing even big­ger.

Thanks to spon­sor­ship by Ge­or­gia Perime­ter Col­lege’s New­ton County cam­pus, 4-H’ers will also be chal­leng­ing youth to cross a pit of “quick­sand” (an­other poly­mer ex­per­i­ment) and make square bub­bles.

Pro­fes­sors and stu­dents from Ge­or­gia Perime­ter will also lead young sci­en­tists to ex­am­ine leaves and feathers un­der mi­cro­scopes, ex­plore the skele­ton, and make funny putty in an­other poly­mer ex­per­i­ment.

As a child, I thought a sci­en­tist was some­one who looked like Beaker or Dr. Ben­son Hon­ey­dew on the Mup­pets, and all they did was work with chem­i­cals in test tubes.

At “Sci­ence on the Square,” youth will see that while we have as much fun as Beaker, sci­ence is not just one field.

Keep New­ton/Cov­ing­ton Beau­ti­ful will con­tinue the wa­ter theme from the main ex­per­i­ment with ed­i­ble aquifers.

Chil­dren will get a sweet treat while learn­ing how non-point source pol­lu­tion af­fects our ground wa­ter.

Jim Hon­ey­cutt of Ox­ford Col­lege will lead physics and as­tron­omy ex­plo­ration with youth.

Hon­ey­cutt is a well-known lo­cal ed­u­ca­tor, who over the decades has ed­u­cated many New­ton County stu­dents by en­gag­ing them with 6-foot slide rules, wind tun­nels, hand­made kites, or by push­ing against a fixed ob­ject and say­ing, “Self, this wall isn’t go­ing to move.”

TheChar­lie El­liot­tWildlife Cen­ter is also bring­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion to the square, us­ing snakes to talk about an­i­mal clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

Of­course, no Span­gler-style sci­ence day would be com­plete without an 18-foot geyser of cola, so 4-H’ers will add height to this cel­e­bra­tion of Na­tional 4-H week with the help of a few Men­tos can­dies.

It is per­haps fit­ting that this all takes place on the Cov­ing­ton Square, by the sign com­mem­o­rat­ing lo­cal ed­u­ca­tor and in­no­va­tor G.C. Adams.

As su­per­in­ten­dant of schools, Adams as­pired to not only bring ed­u­ca­tion to all stu­dents in New­ton County, but also to in­spire stu­dents to want to learn with prac­ti­cal, hands-on con­tests such as the Boys’ Corn Club in 1904.

More than 100 years later, 4-H’ers and stu­dents across our county will meet across from the his­toric court­house, site of that first 4-H event, to ex­plore sci­ence in a newway.

As part of the 4-H: SET (Sci­ence, En­gi­neer­ing and Tech­nol­ogy) ini­tia­tive, 4-H Na­tional Youth Sci­ence Day is meant to in­spire youth across the na­tion to study th­ese fields and lead our world to­mor­row with new dis­cov­er­ies.

Join us onWed­nes­day from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on the Square as we help make “One Mil­lion New Sci­en­tists. One Mil­lion New Ideas.”

Terri Kim­ble is the 4-H Pro­gram Spe­cial­ist for New­ton County 4-H. She can be reached at 770-784-2010 or tkim­ble@uga.

Sub­mit­ted photo

Great cob: County Com­mis­sion Chair­man Aaron Varner signs a procla­ma­tion declar­ing Oct. 5-12 as Na­tional 4-H Week in New­ton County and en­cour­ag­ing lo­cal chil­dren and youth to cel­e­brate 4-H Na­tional Youth Sci­ence Day on Oc­to­ber 8 on the Cov­ing­ton Square from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. 4-H Se­nior County Coun­cil Chair Ken Gal­loway and 4-H Ju­nior County Coun­cil Chair Mary Lathem ex­plain to Varner, also a 4-H alum, how 4-H has grown from the Cov­ing­ton Boys’ Corn Club in 1904 to the world’s largest youth or­ga­ni­za­tion to­day.

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